Four Oak Designs, Pike Road
The Maker: David Belser
“Nearly everybody in my family was a lawyer,” David Belser says. “I was the only stray.”
So in 2012, Belser strayed from his hometown of Montgomery to live on the family farm in Macon County. There, instead of filing lawsuits, he started helping folks swing and sway.
“I was taking care of the farm and going to college online, when I started woodworking,” he remembers. “I was largely self-taught; I’d look at something and try to replicate it. Eventually I made a few coffee tables, and gave one to my girlfriend, Mary Elizabeth.”
One day while visiting a friend at Lake Martin, Belser took a moment to relax in a bed swing on the front porch. “I loved it, and I think that almost anybody who has ever sat in one has felt the same way,” he says. After studying the swing’s construction, Belser built one for himself. Then he decided to share the love.
He moved to the Pike Road area of Montgomery, constructed a woodworking shop and started Four Oak Designs, specializing in custom-made bed swings, tables and flooring.
Now, Belser’s handcrafted swings, which range in size from crib to king, adorn front porches, backyards, courtyards and other shaded spots from New Jersey to California.
The craftsman also offers custom-made tables and heart pine flooring, all fashioned from reclaimed wood Belser finds in pre-1920s buildings and barns around south Alabama.
While his handcrafted pieces have helped Belser gain a reputation as one of the state’s most talented woodworkers, swings are still his biggest sellers. “I either come up with a design myself, or I use ideas from swings I’ve seen,” he explains. “It takes two to three days to complete one – build it and then stain or paint it. I use Southern pine or cedar, and finish the swing with three or four coats of high-grade outdoor varnish.”
His most popular product is the Seaside Bed Swing, a full mattress-sized delight that easily seats three or four front porch swingers. Aided by a local upholsterer, he also creates custom-made cushions and “sunbrella” covers for the swings.
Belser sells most of his swings on his website. “I ship them all over the country. I’ve gotten orders from as far away as New Jersey,” he says. “So I guess even folks in New Jersey like sitting on a front porch.”
Although much of his business is done online, Belser meets many of his customers at antique fairs and home-and-garden shows such as the America Mart in Atlanta. After the shows, he returns home to that coffee table he made several years ago, and the woman he made it for.
“Mary Elizabeth and I got married soon after I gave her that table,” he says. “She’s always been my inspiration, telling me I could be a success at this. But she’s about to take the bar exam, so guess I’ll have another lawyer in the family.”
The Products: Hand-crafted bed swings, tables and flooring, as well as custom-made swing cushions and sunbrella covers.
Take Home: A Seaside Bed Swing, $1,295 (free shipping)
Four Oak Designs
27 Handey Warehouse Road
Montgomery, Alabama 36117